COMPUTER GENERATED BOARDS – BACKGROUND NOTES
THE CURRENT SITUATION AT THE CLUB
For all simultaneous pairs events and all club championship events (and often the two are timed to coincide): the hands are generated by computer, but then they are dealt manually. Obviously, given that I will usually be playing the boards, I am not able to quality assure the dealing. The recent track record in terms of accuracy of dealing has generally been excellent – though last time out one of the two copies of one board was misdealt in a manner that was not apparent until the board was played for the first time.
For teams of four events I am sometimes able to provide computer-generated curtain cards for manual dealing at the table, depending on the number of tables. Whenever there is an odd number of teams, then for each team there will be one specific board set that is not destined to be played by them, so they can be dealt on the night by the ‘non-playing’ team.
For all other events, the boards are shuffled and dealt manually at the table
WHY MIGHT WE WANT TO CHANGE THE CURRENT SITUATION?
A big distinction between computer and manually generated hands is that the computer always “shuffles the cards” properly, whereas, especially when the start of the evening is a bit rushed, manual shuffling might be superficial. It can be demonstrated that if the cards are not well shuffled, then the ensuing hands will tend towards 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 shapes, each with around 10 High Card Points, plus or minus a bit. In particular, hands with 6 or 7 card suits, singletons, voids, etc., will crop up a lot less often than statistically should be the case. I am aware that this point is seen as a big “plus” for manual shuffling by some players [“I don’t like all those funny hands”] – but in many players’ eyes it is a very big “minus” [“I am fed up with all those boring balanced hands”].
Whenever the hands are generated by a computer then hand sheets can be provided at the end of the evening. The scoring program allows the hand layouts to be incorporated into the travellers as part of the results reporting service on the website. Hand-sheets tend to be popular amongst players who like to hold an “inquest” – and that is probably most players! They can also help with resolving any ensuing scoring queries.
A small point, but if the boards have been both computer generated and computer dealt then clearly the time taken to shuffle and deal is avoided and so the evening gets under way more quickly, and it tends to finish nearer to the target time of 10.30.
WHAT ARE THE SNAGS?
Computer dealing costs money. For example, if we were to deploy one set of computer-dealt boards every week the annual bill would be around £500, and given that sometimes we would need two sets, that could take it to over £600. That sort of sum would offer a serious challenge to the club’s bank balance, unless as a direct consequence, average attendance at the club increased, or the money was recouped in some other way.
I still prefer to run the club as two sections whenever I have enough tables for it to be viable, and if indeed the deployment of computer-dealt boards leads to increased attendance, then that would happen more often. I would then face the prospect of one section with computer dealt boards, and one without, OR, I always get two copies, one of which quite often might not be needed in practice. If I finish with one computer dealt section and one not then I have a supplementary issue about being fair about how the costs for the dealing are passed on.
There is a potential issue with the logistics of collecting and returning the dealt boards – though most of the time that wouldn’t be a problem. However, it would be an issue whenever Dorothy and I are away as it would be unreasonable to expect a stand-in Director to make the necessary detour – both to collect and then to return the boards.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
“Do nothing” is a possibility.
Being realistic, if we were to take computer-dealt boards every week, we would be committed always to run the club as one section. We usually play 24 boards in an evening. The EBU guidelines say that as a minimum all players should play at least 75% of the boards in play, so with precisely 16 tables in play, and following a simple Mitchell style movement with 2 boards placed on each table, that minimum standard is just met. Personally, I don’t think that this minimum standard is good – the ideal is that all players should play all of the boards - so starting out with 75% as the aspiration is, in my view, far too low. Besides which, if 16 tables turns out to be 15.5 then 12 pairs will face a sit-out and they will only play 69% of the boards. To get round these issues – and quite independently of the issue of computer-dealt boards – I have been exploring some novel movements that enable a lower number of boards in play – e.g., 26 boards at 16 tables. The snag then is that the movement involves multiple and complex board shares.
A “cheap and cheerful” compromise would be for me to get a stock of computer generated curtain cards and associated hand sheets stored away to deploy whenever practical, for dealing at the table. With certain teams-of-four movements it is predictable in advance whether such an approach is viable. For pairs movements so long as there are at least 13 tables in play then the same principle could apply. Some of the teams of four movement cards I use already introduce the concept of a “Round 0” for board dealing. This idea breaks down with a single section of 12 or fewer tables – unless I could deploy “hesitation” / “double hesitation” movements with an added board-set. Boards that started the evening on a relay table would need to be dealt manually, so most of the boards would be computer-generated. A snag with the use of at-the-table dealing is that whereas typical ‘Blue Section’ players have a tendency to arrive at the club in very good time, the same cannot be said for all ‘Red Section’ players, and late arrivals could make it difficult to define the “Round 0”.
There is a range of intermediate options, e.g. “We will run as one section with computer generated and computer dealt boards on the first Thursday of every month (unless Dorothy and I are away)”. If we were to get a lot of tables that would almost certainly involve a ‘funny movement’ for the boards (not for the players) involving multiple board-shares - all of which would be described on table cards – for reasons as set out at point B above.
I have given thought to scrapping the concept of “Blue / Red” Section and replacing it by “Manual Dealt / Computer Dealt” sections. There are lots of problems with that approach, such as, what happens if, in practice, we only get enough tables for one section? However, if attendance did improve sufficiently to make such an idea predictably viable then it offers a possible solution to the issue of meeting the costs. The offer could become: play in the ‘manual’ section, with the prospect of a wine prize for the winning pair, OR play in the ‘computer’ section where ALL contestants will have a ‘prize’ of well-shuffled boards and hand sheets – but no wine. Market forces then might take over. I consider this idea best tucked away in the filing cabinet and brought out in the future if it looks like a contender.
Dorothy and I will give considered thought to adopting computer-dealt boards in those situations where we already use computer generated deals, i.e., simultaneous pairs and club championships. However this point is a club management issue, not a club attendee issue, as for players there will be no significant difference compared with current practice. [There is in fact a cost implication even for this approach as we are now sometimes able to get the boards dealt “free” on the basis of an exchange of favours.]
Ultimately, this is a club management issue, but we always like to listen to the views of members and potential members. We therefore invite you to comment on the questions below, and to add any other comments you think may be relevant.
What are your preferences about using computer-generated hands:
Always – well, with only the occasional exception
Regularly, e.g., ‘First Thursday of every Month’
Leave it as now – Simultaneous Pairs, Club Championships, only …
Computer generated hands would cost money and that cost would need to be met somehow. Please pass your views about the following options:
Additional table money
Abandon the wine prizes (except for ‘player of the month’ and championship events)
Ask players to deal the cards from computer-printed curtain cards before the evening starts (for hands they will not play, obviously)
I favour running the club in two sections whenever the number of attendees enables it, but the logistics of using computer-generated hands might well imply that we had to run as one section as a matter of routine. What are your views?
WEIGHING IT UP
Basically it is a club management issue as to whether to change current practices concerning computer generated hands. The two key factors are the enthusiasm, or otherwise, of club attendees and the issue of meeting the costs. Your views are invited.
Mountnessing Bridge Club.